Founded in 1805, Freeman's Auction House in Philadelphia is America's oldest established auction house. On Thursday November 16, 2023 their Books and Manuscripts auction featured the Edward Gorey collection of Valerie and Matthew Young.
In 1970 Valerie Young purchased a copy of The Bug Book to amuse her children. This purchase began a decades long immersion into all things Edward Gorey. The Young's were soon seriously collecting Mr. Gorey's works, acquiring new works as they were published while also searching out used and rare titles. Matthew Young wrote an essay on their collection for the Friends of the Princeton Library Review, Number 44, Summer 2023. Here is a link to the publication, the essay begins on page 41 - https://library.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/Friends%20Review%20no%2044%20Summer%202023%20low-res%20version.pdf
The 49 lots offered included first edition books, limited edition books, hand colored deluxe edition books, prints, posters, stuffed creatures, and original artwork. Every piece offered sold, with multiple bidders vying for each item. The limited edition Doubtful Guest Doll (#22/50) with its box (shown above) sold for $3780.00 (including buyer's premium). Elephantomas (#VII/X), the very rare portfolio of nine monoprints sold for $5985.00 (including buyer's premium).
Four pieces of original art were included in the auction. English Soup, a black and white drawing created circa 1998 for Edward Gorey's play of the same title sold for $5985.00 (including buyer's premium). Figbash first appeared in The Raging Tide, 1987 and quickly became a favorite character. With his long arms and flexible body, Figbash appeared in countless drawings and books, but very few original drawings of the character are in private collections. This is only the third piece of original artwork featuring Figbash that I am aware of outside of the Gorey Archives.
The other three pieces of original art sold all relate to Edward Gorey's 1976 book, The Broken Spoke. Les Insectes Cyclistes is a visually witty take on cycling, with three long legged insects riding various bicycles. This eye catching piece sold for $11,970.00 (including buyer's premium).
A drawing listed as a sketch for this piece sold for $5985.00. This drawing will be discussed in depth in an upcoming post.
A stunning full color painting titled Contestants in the annual Trans-Novaya Zemlya Bicycle Race sold for $15,120.00. Created for The Broken Spoke, this piece of art adorned the cover of Bromer Booksellers 2001 extensive catalog of the works of Edward Gorey.
It was exciting to see this extensive collection come on the market in an era when many collectors choose to donate their collections to libraries and institutions where, after the initial excitement generated by the donation, the pieces are rarely displayed. The opportunity for collectors to fill in gaps within their collections was a rare experience that keeps joy of collecting alive and thriving.
Images for this post courtesy Freeman's Auction House and the Princeton Library Review.